NEW OXFORD — All season long, the Central York softball team didn't get too high as it continued to rack up win after win, en route to claiming the York-Adams League Division I title.
The program isn't a stranger to success at the league level, so this year's team wouldn't allow itself to get too caught up in the victories that came on an almost daily basis. The Panthers had bigger goals, including winning the league championship for a third consecutive season.
Wednesday, Central York accomplished that first goal, dominating Division III champion Kennard-Dale from start to finish, securing an 8-1 win at New Oxford High School to make it a three-peat.
After being relatively modest about their accomplishments all year long, the Panthers will now give themselves until next week to bask in their achievements.
Then it will be time to gear up for the District 3 playoffs.
"It's exciting for me because it's exciting for the girls," Central York head coach K.J. Livingston said. "A lot of them, the seniors, to be able to three-peat, it is a good feeling."
Much of the Panthers' success this year has been fueled by the left arm of ace Courtney Coppersmith, who has only gotten stronger as the season progressed. She has a perfect game and a pair of one-hit performances just in her last few starts.
Wednesday's championship game was hardly any different from the rest.
For all but one inning, Coppersmith was perfect, sitting down the Rams' hitters in order in six of the seven frames. For the game, she allowed just three hits and no walks, compared to striking out 12. In the one inning she struggled, the top of the fourth, she allowed three hits and a run — not too bad for most pitchers, but disappointing for her.
"We were able to make them swing at pitches that they probably shouldn't have swung at, but it worked for us," said Coppersmith, who's verbally committed to pitch on the NCAA Division I level for the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. "We were able to get outs when we needed to get outs. I wouldn't say I'm locked in at any point because there's always things that can happen, pitches that aren't working, but from the beginning I was ready to go."
It also didn't hurt that she had the run support to keep her at ease while she was in the circle.
Central York (21-1) produced an early run in the bottom of the first and then really took control in the third. In that frame, the Panthers scored three runs on three K-D errors to open up a 4-0 cushion. That was plenty of offense for Coppersmith. Central, however, wanted more and got more, scoring twice more in the fourth, once more in the fifth and once more in the sixth.
Of the eight runs the Panthers scored, only three of them were earned. Central made sure to take advantage of seven Rams' errors.
"That's one of the things we're good at as a team is capitalizing on errors," senior catcher Briannah Dobson said. "We're normally good at keeping our errors at a minimum, so we're a pretty strong team all-around."
Dobson was the Panthers' big offensive star, always finding herself at the plate with runners on base. Time and time again, she delivered, driving in four runs, including plating two on a single in the fourth, while also scoring a run.
For K-D (15-3), its only productive inning at the plate was started by leadoff hitter Crystal Mullins. She recorded the first hit off of Coppersmith, a triple, to put herself in scoring position and was brought home one batter later on a sacrifice fly by Jaedyn McKeon.
The lack of production at the plate hasn't happened often for the Rams this year, but it popped up at an inopportune time on Wednesday.
"We haven't seen great pitching all season," K-D head coach Greg Coulton said. "The best pitcher we faced this year was from Pequea Valley over in Lancaster County. She was a lot like (Coppersmith), threw a lot of high heat, risers, and we hit her very well. That's why we thought we were going to do OK today, but it's been so long since we saw a really good, hard-throwing pitcher and I think they struggled."
Next up for both teams is their respective District 3 playoff openers beginning next week, with the Rams competing in Class 4-A and Central York in 6-A. Both teams were No. 2 in their respective classes in the latest district power ratings.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.